Way back in 1996, Tokyo resident Toshiya Sekine started up a DJ night called “BOY MEETS GIRL” at a small club in Shibuya, mixing the then-popular sounds of Shibuya-kei with an extensive selection of the genre’s influences. 19 years later, BOY MEETS GIRL is Japan’s longest-running Shibuya-kei event, with Toshiya faithfully keeping the spirit of Shibuya-kei alive through bimonthly parties. I was recently privileged to have the opportunity to speak with the man himself, and here on Memories of Shibuya we’re sharing the insights of one of Shibuya-kei’s most dedicated proponents with the world – enjoy!
Memories of Shibuya: You’ve been doing BOY MEETS GIRL for 19 years now – what did you do before?
Toshiya Sekine: I only had some experience as a DJ, just small gigs here and there. BOY MEETS GIRL was my first regular event.
MoS: Were there many such Shibuya-kei events around when you started?
TS: Before answering that, I think I have to explain a bit about the term “Shibuya-kei”. Shibuya-kei includes certain kinds of Japanese music, new wave/neo-acoustic, soft rock/sunshine pop, soul, R&B, hip-hop, acid jazz, rare groove, disco, house music, West Coast AOR, world music, film soundtracks, lounge music, etc., but the name “Shibuya-kei” isn’t a musical genre. It’s the name for a cultural movement in Japan, much like the mods and later rare groove scene in London were. Shibuya-kei people love the fashion, pop music and culture of ’60s and ’70s Europe and America very much, so the music takes influence from that – but most of them don’t like the name “Shibuya-kei”. The name isn’t very accurate, but since there’s no other name for what was happening, it is used as a convenience.
The name “Shibuya-kei” first appeared in a magazine around 1992, but the original “Shibuya-kei” event was at Club “Zoo” in Shimokitazawa in 1989 – however, Japanese music was almost never played at that party. It was mostly British new wave and fake jazz, and Kenji Ozawa, Cornelius and Kahimi Karie were all regulars at Club “Zoo.”
While this kind of music was very popular when I got started around 1996, it’s a minor thing now. Even still, those who really love music still love Shibuya-kei. I’m proud to say that BOY MEETS GIRL will be having its 19th anniversary this year, no other event has gone on longer.
MoS: Which songs do the crowds usually like best?
TS: For the Japanese artists, the most popular ones are Kenji Ozawa, Flipper’s Guitar, Cornelius, Pizzicato Five, Hideki Kaji and Original Love. But soft rock, guitar pop, soul, city-pop and AOR are also quite popular.
MoS: You usually play at Greenapple Koenji, are there any other clubs you like?
TS: I like Greenapple because of the interior design. It’s really psychedelic, with a strong ’60s/’70s theme. It’s very pretty. I also like “OTO” and “edge end” in Shibuya, as well as Club Roots in Koenji – the sound quality is great at that one. Those clubs all have a good atmosphere.
MoS: How did you get into Shibuya-kei, and what about the music has made you stick with it so long?
TS: The Flipper’s Guitar song “Young, Alive, In Love” was the theme song to a Japanese TV show in 1990, because of that I bought their album and was immediately enraptured by it. From there, I came to like European and American new wave, as well as ’60s and ’70s pop music – which then led me to Pizzicato Five, Original Love, and Bridge, which Hideki Kaji was in.
Shibuya-kei stuck with me because it was a part of a fabulous culture that I experienced back then, and it will remain in my memory forever. It was about digging for good music around the world, and even now I still try and find good new music – I’m always adding new music I find to my DJ sets.
MoS: Been following any Japanese acts lately?
TS: These days, it’s mostly been Lamp for me. They’re not Shibuya-kei, but their composition ability is among the best in the world. They’re inspired by European and American rock, pop, AOR, crossover and Brazilian music. I especially recommend the songs “Kusou Yakan Hikou,” “Sachiko,” “Symphony” and “Amefuru Yoru no Mukou.”
MoS: Any big plans for the future?
TS: Well, mostly I’d like to do a show overseas, but I don’t really know where.
MoS: Before we go, the blog’s name is ‘Memories of Shibuya’ – what’s your favourite memory of Shibuya-kei?
TS: Two shows stick out in my mind. The first one was a free concert by Flipper’s Guitar in 1991, actually their last performance together as a band. That one was put on by TOKYO FM, great show. Another was the first solo concert that Kenji Ozawa did – also a free show. Those two are very strong in my memory.
You can keep up with Toshiya Sekine’s upcoming gigs at his tumblr page, and the next BOY MEETS GIRL event will be at Greenapple in Koenji on February 28.
(Interview translation by Devon Fisher)